The Arctic Light

Before I attack a couple of Friday 5s, a little update in bullet form because my brain’s a little fluffy this afternoon and I’ll excuse myself much more easily when my prose is terrible if I’m just making a list.

  • I’m going through a wee bit of ickiness these days, which I will explain in the coming weeks. I’m not depressed — I hear the call of the abyss many times each day but I only allow myself the briefest glances in its direction. I’ve learned to redirect in moments like this, as tempting as it is to dive in and plummet. It has worked so far. My therapist (yes, I have one now) and my psychiatrist (I have one of them too) both say this is a good strategy. I’m rather pleased I came up with it on my own, before I met either of them. I’m somewhat annoyed it took me so long to figure it out. I’m baffled that such a thing works.
  • However, I’m pretty sad about one major thing and perhaps a few smaller things. Sadness doesn’t worry me, but it’s been intense this weekend.
  • The major thing is I’m going through a breakup. I was seeing someone most of last year. We shall know her in this space as Gin Blossom. Or at least for now — I should really look that phrase up to see if it meant something before it was the name of a great alt-pop band in the mid-90s. It ended right after the new year and I’ve been mostly okay, but this weekend it got worse for reasons I’ll probably get into, if only to help me sort it out. I mean, that’s what this space is for. You thought it was for the audience?
  • I’m writing this in a physical space very, very familiar to me, yet not really visited in the past five years. Hamilton Library, on the campus at UH Manoa. The nonprofit I work for, who used to be based here on this campus, moved to offices near Ala Moana in February 2019. I’ve still come by, because I love libraries and because I’ve continued to borrow things here (one of the perks of my employemnet), but I haven’t worked here. I have several favored spots. Right now I’m in one of my most productive locations, completely alone while much of the rest of the study spaces are rather busy. It’s finals time, you know.
  • Listening to Marika Takeuchi’s soothing neoclassical and new wave piano excellence while I write. I needed something mellow and intelligent. Not an album in order, as I usually listen, but “Top songs” or whatever Apple Music calls it, just a very long list of songs played a lot by other fans, I guess.
  • I’ll be writing and working in this space a lot more, beginning pretty soon. The foundation moves back on campus. We were supposed to move in the day after tomorrow, but this is not happening, so now most of us are in work-from-home mode until things get straightened out, which I suspect will be in a week. I was on the fence about leaving the old space, which was in a great area. I am no longer on the fence. We’ve been talking about this move for so long and we’ve been actively getting ready for it for so long that I just want the whole thing to be over. I did not forget how great it is to work on a university campus; however, I feel myself clicking into place with a comfort I find affirming and encouraging.
  • I’m stopping at the fish market to pick up stuff for dinner. I make dinner for the parents on Saturdays, and I realize now I probably won’t have time to finish my Friday 5s before I have to go. I’ll do what I can, though, and finish this evening from home.

From April 19: Gemini from here.

  1. What movie do you think everyone should see?
    I think I have several answers to this question. I surprised myself by not having a ready answer, the way I do for the books version of this question. The film I think everyone should see because it’s (a) about as close to perfect as a movie has ever come and (b) perhaps the most canonical film in the canon, is Casablanca, which is also my favorite film.

    Somebody somewhere asked what book every president of the United States should read, and my answer was Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston if an autobiography is preferred or Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata if a novel is preferred. They are both about the Japanese internment in WWII in America, and I am not saying this one issue is more important than any of the other super super important issues every American should be aware of, but Americans are less likely to have a meaningful understanding of what happened, and we just can’t allow this kind of treatment of our fellow citizens ever to happen again.

    So I feel I need to come up with a film with that kind of approach: something everyone should see because it makes them more (fill in the blank). Something beautiful or important or meaningful we would all benefit from experiencing if everyone else were also to experience it. This leads me to something with cosmic or spiritual meaning, but maybe I haven’t seen the film that does this for me, at least directly. I can think of many, many films that do it a bit more artistically. Many people thinking about this suggest Babette’s Feast, a wonderful example. However, reserving the right to change my mind when I think of something much better on my drive home in a moment, I’m going with Groundhog Day.
  2. What song describes your overall mood or outlook on life right now?
    The song in my headphones right now is called “The Arctic Light” by Marika Takeuchi, and in this moment it really sums it up well. Melancholy but hopeful, while being aware of all the non-melancholy, beautiful things around me.
  3. What’s the most memorable food you’ve eaten while traveling?
    I don’t even remember what we had, but when I stopped at Stanford to visit R in her senior year there, we took the BART into the city and wandered around until we found an Italian restaurant. Our college years were so crazy for us, individually and as two friends who would later be in love (one of us was already in love, but we shall not revisit this today), and as she was about to close this four-year chapter of her life and come (maybe?) home and I was still trying to figure out how to make college work, we had a meal that made me think it was all going to be okay, that we were still the friends we’d been in high school. We went back the next night to eat there again, only this time I ordered what she’d had, and she ordered what I’d had. It felt for years after like the most important meal I’d ever had.

    The other is Molokai hot bread. That’s what they call it there. I didn’t know what it was either when I asked all the teens I was working with for a week one summer what their favorite food was and almost all of them said hot bread. There’s a bakery there, Kanemitsu Bakery. After 10:00 in the evening, you could walk down a back alley, knock on this old wooden door, and wait for one of the bakers to stick his head out and say, “Yeah?” as if he had no idea what you were there for. There was one thing to order: a round loaf of bread, right out of the oven. You could order it with some combination of butter, sugar and cinnamon, jelly, and cream cheese. Years later they added other varieties, but I have always had the strawberry jelly and cream cheese and let me tell you: there has never been a more perfect food on this planet. It’s the Casablanca of food.
  4. When were you most recently disappointed by the closing of a store or restaurant?
    My lovely non-Hawaii friends are not going to understand this, but a crack seed shop opened near the office right at the start of the lockdown, and it’s closing at the end of the month to go strictly online. It was a block from the office, which is no longer my office, and a terrific combination of new, inventive candies appealing to today’s sweet tooths and throwback nostalgic snacks only people in Hawaii of a certain age would appreciate. I was pleased to discover it for all my coworkers who also became regulars, and we went for one last visit last week, and a few of us had stamp cards to redeem for free Icees. I will still order from them when they are only online, but dang will I miss going into that store.
  5. How have you been sleeping lately?
    Mostly terribly. I wake up an hour before my alarm no matter when I set it and I can’t get back to sleep. My weekends, where I usually catch up on sleep when I need to, have been busy with Camp NaNoWriMo stuff. I have been. undisciplined in putting myself to bed. It’s been just ridiculous for a few weeks.

Okay I did have time to finish one 5 but not two. I’ll take it. Will come back and edit typos and dumb phrasing later. Here’s some stock video someone put behind the Marika Takeuchi song, which I was pleased to discover has been covered on YouTube by maybe 20 musicians. I had no idea this song was so popular. I’m pleased to see it is.